Wednesday, June 3, 2020

'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' explains voting by mail

I posted a serious take on voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic in CNN and WUSA9 ask why Trump is against voting by mail, so it's time for a comedic one. Fortunately, this Sunday's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO was about Voting by Mail.

With the 2020 presidential election nearing and a pandemic in full swing, John Oliver discusses why voting by mail is necessary, the fearmongering surrounding it, and why we need to start planning for November right now.
Oliver covers all the same points about voting by mail that Chris Cillizza and Reese Waters made last week and then some and made it funnier. That helps comprehension, as I observed "I learned more from seven minutes of reporting laced with comedy than I did in four clips of straight reporting I embedded in yesterday's post" in Samantha Bee explains how to get away with election interference. I hope it does for my readers, too.

Finally, Oliver loves birds and detests Tucker Carlson. I second these emotions.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Marching music for the Pennsylvania, Indiana, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C. primaries


I previewed today's post in Marching music for the Hawaii Democratic Primary.
This series will return on June 2, 2020, when the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota will hold their presidential nominating primaries for a final mini-Super Tuesday. Watch for the Pennsylvania drum corps, if nothing else.
Before I present the drum corps and marching bands, I'm sharing what the Associated Press via KTIV in Iowa reported about today in PRIMARY DAY: 7 states, DC vote amid pandemic, social unrest.
Voters and campaigns alike will be asked to navigate curfews in place amid protests of George Floyd's killing, coronavirus concerns and a sharp increase in mail balloting as voting takes place from Maryland to Montana.
And I wrote that this would be "another happy and slightly escapist entry" in SpaceX launches first crewed mission from U.S. soil since 2011 — ha! The COVID-19 pandemic and nation-wide protests still made an appearance.
Many political groups are focusing on Pennsylvania, which represents a high-profile test case for the November general election.
So am I, because that's where the most drum corps are.

Before I begin the musical portion of this post, I am noting that Joe Biden needs to win 89% of all delegates at stake on today to clinch the Democratic nomination for President. Even though I've been writing "Enjoy the music as you're awaiting the results, even if they don't mean much anymore" on these entries since Marching Music for the Alaska Democratic Primary two months ago, that's not really the case. Tonight's results do mean something!

The musical section of this post starts with 2019 The Cadets | Behold.



Allentown, PA | 9th Place | 89.838

Vic Firth Marching has the 2019 Cadets - FULL SHOW.

Vic Firth takes you BEYOND the lot with THE CADETS as they perform their 2019 production "Behold" during finals week in Indianapolis, IN! EIGHT HD cameras you WON'T see anywhere else!
Follow over the jump for the rest of the drum corps and marching bands from today's primary states.


Monday, June 1, 2020

SpaceX launches first crewed mission from U.S. soil since 2011

I've been looking for good news to post this week, what with 100,000 dead and 40 million unemployed in the U.S., many stores closing for good even as the economy reopens, and nation-wide protests with police attacks on the press. After all, I can't be all DOOM all the time! Well, I have just the news item from Verge Science: SpaceX just launched humans to space for the first time.

Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, just successfully launched its first two people into orbit, ushering in a new age of human spaceflight in the United States. SpaceX is now the first company to send passengers to orbit on a privately made vehicle, and the flight marked the first time astronauts have launched into orbit from American soil in nearly a decade.
That was the launch. The important part of the mission so far was getting the crew to the ISS. Bloomberg Quick Take News showed that in Two Astronauts Welcomed Aboard International Space Station After Historic SpaceX Launch.

"And with that, Endeavor, welcome to the International Space Station, please come aboard."

@Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken board the @Space_Station after their historic @SpaceX launch, the 1st American-manned mission since 2011.
As both Verge Science and Bloomberg noted, Americans going to space from American soil on an American rocket hasn't happened for nine years, when I posted The end of an era: last space shuttle mission. The occasion made me sad and worried, a pair of emotions that reappeared when I wrote Endeavour's last flight and other space and astronomy news.
This completes the previous chapter in human space flight by the U.S. May there be another one so that our society does not act out the tragic science fiction plot of losing the ability to travel to space as a sign of a declining technological civilization.
Even before I posted that, the first glimmer of hope for a return to space appeared in Space and astronomy stories for the week of Memorial Day where I reported on Dragon's first cargo mission to the ISS. My hope became more real two years ago.
I've been waiting for this news since July 2011, which was the end of an era, the last space shuttle mission. If all goes well, I'll be able to report that the United States once again has a crewed space capacity after eight long years of depending on Russia at the next National Moon Day. Yay!
The day has finally come. YAY! I feel much better.

Stay tuned for another happy and slightly escapist entry tomorrow, which I previewed in Marching music for the Hawaii Democratic Primary.
This series will return on June 2, 2020, when the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota will hold their presidential nominating primaries for a final mini-Super Tuesday. Watch for the Pennsylvania drum corps, if nothing else.

1968 has arrived again with nation-wide protests and police attacks on press


I compared 2016 to 1968 at least three times four years ago, beginning with The torches and pitchforks came out for Trump last night in March of that election year.
As for ABC News' comparison of today to the summer of 1968, I think it's a better analogy than Weimar Germany. We're not at either place yet, but 1968 is only blocks away and we're headed right for it.
We're there again, including what I thought made the media coverage of the Trump campaign more adversarial four years ago.
What is new is that Trump has actively antagonized the press...That's called picking a fight with people who buy ink (or pixels) by the barrel...an action that Mark Twain advised should be avoided at all costs...Now, the targets of violence have expanded from protesters to the press. That's guaranteed to make coverage more hostile.
Police all over the country have made the same mistake, as the Washington Post reported in Police appear to target journalists as they cover George Floyd protests.

Some on-air journalists have become the target of attacks while covering clashes between police and protesters following George Floyd's death.
This is the kind of thing I'd expect to see in a war zone or some authoritarian country with weak freedom of the press, not the U.S., at least not this widespread. The silver lining is that it will get the press focused on police brutality now that it is directed against them, not just the protestors and rioters. The bad news is that it could attract media attention away from the people who experience excessive force every day. To its credit, the Washington Post continued to cover that part of the story in D.C. protesters don’t want their voices lost in the chaos.

Before clashes erupted between protesters and police on May 31, sparking a night of chaos across Washington, D.C., there was a third day of mostly peaceful protests outside the White House.
Don't forget that this is the real story of the past week.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Coffee Party USA invites you to stream the political TV series on the Golden Coffee Cups shortlist while staying safe at home


Hey, all of you binge-watching your guilty pleasure shows while staying safe at home, relaxing after working from home, returning for work after wearing a mask all day, or just stressed out from the real world! I have another suggestion to make your time in front of the big-screen TV in the living room, the slightly smaller screen in the bedroom, or even holding your tablet or smartphone work to help your appreciation of politics and government on television and then apply your understanding to help Coffee Party USA in one of our projects.

Last month, Coffee Party USA invited you to watch these political movies while staying safe at home, which led to the 2019 Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies, AKA the Golden Coffee Cups for Movies. It is now time for the next phase of these awards.
The members will also be voting on the nominees and winners of the Golden Coffee Cups for television programs and their performers that demonstrate the best in politics and government on the small screen. Watch for an announcement of the shortlist of possible nominees from the 2018-2019 television season and an invitation to watch them next week, much like Coffee Party USA invites you to watch these political movies while staying safe at home, followed by the nominees of the 2019-2020 season in the summer.
Follow over the jump to read the shortlists for television shows in five categories along with a two-part activity involving them.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Bed Bath & Beyond, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse from Retail Archaeology and Company Man

I ended the list of chains closing stores in Many stores closing for good even as economy reopens, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and COVID-19 pandemic with "Finally, Bed, Bath & Beyond is closing 44 stores, more than the 40 stores I reported in CNBC warns that Bed Bath & Beyond is 'facing extinction,' a tale of the Retail Apocalypse." Two days later, Retail Archaeology uploaded Bed Bath & Beyond: Can They Survive? Take it way, Erik!

In this episode we take a look at Bed Bath & Beyond. They've really been struggling and the future looks uncertain for them.
While the footage is from before the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm still impressed that Erik of Retail Archaeology uploaded the video so soon after the Business Insider article I quoted earlier this week. I'm also impressed that he's taken a look at the corporation's stock price history along with a quick summary of the chain's founding and growth. It reminds me of Company Man, who examines store numbers, sales, and stock prices as part of his company histories.

Speaking of Company Man, he uploaded Bed Bath & Beyond vs. Linens 'n Things earlier this year and provided lots of "store numbers, sales, and stock prices" as part of his comparison and contrast of the two home furnishing chains.

This video compares two strangely similar stores that were once among the top retailers in the U.S. They've both since fallen but at different times and for different reasons. In this video I talk about what happened while highlighting some key differences that have lead to their separate fates.
Company Man's graphs show why CNBC was so concerned last year when Bed Bath & Beyond lost money for the first time since going public. Even then, I was fairly sanguine.
Compared to a lot of chains in trouble, a net loss of 25 stores out of more than 1,000 hardly registers. I'm not terribly worried that the nearest location, just a little more than two miles west of me, is going to close any time soon. I also think that the chain is facing a crisis, but it's not in imminent danger of going out of business. Still, it's a sign that issues with brick-and-mortar are spreading beyond dead malls and the businesses associated with them, including chain restaurants.
I'm not as calm about the fate of the chain now, if only because 100,000 dead and 40 million unemployed in the U.S. has made the economic environment much more precarious for retailers other than daily essentials such as food and medicine, which I shopped for yesterday and picked up without ever entering the store.

I expect I'll write more about the Retail Apocalypse in June. In the meantime, stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment feature as the final post of the month

Friday, May 29, 2020

CNN and WUSA9 ask why Trump is against voting by mail

While I was blogging about 100,000 dead and 40 million unemployed in the U.S., the human toll of the pandemic so far, President Trump was fighting Twitter over being fact-checked. I could write an entire post about the fight itself and I might still do that, but I'd rather concentrate on the reason for the fight, which is Trump's unsupported attack on voting by mail. To that end, I'm sharing two opinion pieces, beginning with CNN's The real reason Donald Trump hates mail-in ballots.

California wants to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters ahead of the 2020 election due to the coronavirus pandemic, a move that President Donald Trump is continuously attacking — saying it will lead to a fraudulent and rigged election. Chris Cillizza explains why the widespread election fraud Trump claims will happen is, well, unlikely.
As Cilizza says, voter fraud by impersonation is so rare that it's almost non-existent, which means it is not at all effective. The safety of the electorate during the COVID-19 pandemic far outweighs that miniscule risk. As for Trump being unable to recognize that can ever lose, I once observed elsewhere about a hornet I swatted (unsuccessfully, unfortunately, but at least I wasn't stung) 'he thinks he's winning because he can't imagine himself doing anything else.' That looks awful familiar.

WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., has another take on Trump's opposition to voting by mail, asking Why is the president against voting by mail? | Reese's Final Thought.

Without a more robust mail-in voting plan, voter turnout will diminish. Maybe that's the point.
Yeah, that, too.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

100,000 dead and 40 million unemployed in the U.S., the human toll of the pandemic so far

Yesterday, I described the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on retail businesses in Many stores closing for good even as economy reopens, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and COVID-19 pandemic. Today, I'm sharing two videos on the human cost from CBS This Morning, beginning with More than 100,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.

As the U.S. observes the sobering milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, David Begnaud looks at the lives lost, and how cities nationwide are planning to reopen even as cases continue to rise.
I was not one of those who considered that 100,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 was unthinkable in March. While I didn't say so here, I did comment on a friend's Facebook page back then in response to an estimate of 120,000 to 200,000 Americans dead from this pandemic that if we ended up with 120,000 dead, the country would be lucky, although that's no comfort to the friends and relatives of those who died.

What did surprise me was the economic toll. CBS This Morning reported today In the last 10 weeks, over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment.

More than 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the number of jobless claims to more than 40 million over the last 10 weeks. CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss which industries are scrambling to hire some of those workers.
Near the end of February, I wrote "This stock market crash is the one reason I am not revising the recession call I made in CNBC explains how the yield curve predicted every recession for the past 50 years. Without the cornovirus outbreak, I might have to. With it, I still think it's likely." Within a month, I posted FiveThirtyEight examines coronavirus and the economy, by which time the recession was on, even if it won't be declared officially until July. I was right for the wrong reasons. Given the human toll, I'd rather have been wrong.

While I was right about the timing, I was wrong about the extent of the recession. As I wrote in The tax bill and the U.S. economy in 2018 and beyond, "I expect the next recession to be somewhere between the 2001 recession or the 1990-1991 recession in its effects, probably closer to 2001." Instead, the U.S. is experiencing the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, all within the first two months. Yikes! Now I know how a pandemic or nation-wide natural disaster affects the U.S. economy. I'm not sure I wanted to find out.

Speaking of being right for the wrong reasons, I wrote "I fully expect Peak Oil, economic decline, and social upheaval to end the national touring model, which has been around since 1971, by 2020" in Christmas in July eight years ago. Well, the 2020 drum corps season has been cancelled, so the national touring model is in a coma, not dead, but Peak Oil had nothing to do with it. Instead, it was the pandemic that drove what passes for economic decline and social upheaval and that caused there to be no competitive drum corps this year. I'll have to see if the pandemic ends next year and the activity can be revived. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Many stores closing for good even as economy reopens, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and COVID-19 pandemic

In the previous installment of tales of the Retail Apocalypse, which has now been rolled up into the COVID-19 pandemic, I told how JCPenney filed for bankruptcy.* It's not just JCPenney's, along with Neiman Marcus and J. Crew declaring bankruptcy and closing stores as a result of the pandemic. WXYZ uploaded Store closings amid coronavirus pandemic this morning listing many more.


WXYZ got its list from Business Insider's More than 3,300 stores are closing in 2020 as the retail apocalypse drags on. Here's the full list.
Retailers are expected to close more than 3,300 stores this year, following record-high rates of closings last year.

More than 9,300 store closings were announced in the US in 2019, smashing the previous record of roughly 8,000 store closures in 2017, according to an analysis by Business Insider.

The number of store closings this year could be even higher than previous records, according to estimates from the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. The firm estimated last year —prior to the coronavirus pandemic — that as many as 12,000 major chain stores could close in 2020.

The pandemic is now putting even more stores in danger of closing, as retailers grapple with dramatic drops in sales in traffic.
Just to review, here are the chains closing more than 100 stores, along with my comments. In addition, Sears is closing 51 stores and Kmart 45 stores. I have a long series about Sears and KMart with the latest featuring Sears being Lampert and Mnuchin sued by Sears, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse and the latest about KMart Last two Kmarts in metro Detroit will close, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse. Finally, Bed, Bath & Beyond is closing 44 stores, more than the 40 stores I reported in CNBC warns that Bed Bath & Beyond is 'facing extinction,' a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.

All of this is happening as stores and malls are reopening in Michigan, which WXYZ also reported in Two local malls set to reopen May 28.


I'm not going back to the mall any time soon. My wife and I are doing our shopping online and having it delivered to home or picking it up in the parking lot, something millions of Americans are also doing.

That's it for the Retail Apocalypse for today. With luck, the next entry will be about the first commercial crew mission to the ISS. Cross your fingers and stay tuned!

*I also reported how Kroger and other grocery chains were ending "hero pay" and remarked that deserved a post of its own. I'll get to it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Coffee Party USA announces the 2019 Golden Coffee Cup Movie Winners!


The members of Coffee Party USA have voted on the nominees for the 2018 Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies, also known as the Golden Coffee Cups, so it's time to announce the winners. "Harriet" swept the categories in which it was nominated, winning Best Drama or Comedy about Politics or Government of 2017 AKA the Best Political Scripted Movie, while Cynthia Erivo won two awards for playing Harriet Tubman in "Harriet," Best Portrayal of an Activist or Concerned Citizen in a Film and Best Performance by an Actor in a Political Film, for a total of three awards. Annette Bening won the vote for Best Portrayal of a Government Official in a Film playing Senator Dianne Feinstein in "The Report." "Apollo 11" won two awards, first for Best Documentary about Politics or Government and the second for U.S. President John F. Kennedy as Best Appearance of a Government Official in a Documentary. Congratulations to all the winners for depicting what the members of Coffee Party USA considered to be the best of politics and government in film during 2019!

Movies are not the only type of entertainment Coffee Party USA recognizes. The members will also be voting on the nominees and winners of the Golden Coffee Cups for television programs and their performers that demonstrate the best in politics and government on the small screen. Watch for an announcement of the shortlist of possible nominees from the 2018-2019 television season and an invitation to watch them next week, much like Coffee Party USA invites you to watch these political movies while staying safe at home, followed by the nominees of the 2019-2020 season in the summer.

Coffee Party USA ia a 501c(4) nonprofit social welfare organization dedicated to empowering and connecting communities to reclaim our government for the people. To support its efforts, which include educating the public on our website and on our Facebook page, registering people to vote with our partners TurboVote and National Voter Registration Day, and reminding them to vote through our Voter Buddy program, please consider donating. A donation of $10.00 for ten years of Coffee Party USA is recommended. Ten dollars will also buy our partner stamp with Stamp Stampede to stamp money out of politics. For those who wish to give at a higher level of support and be more involved in the organization, please consider becoming a member, which will allow you to vote for future Golden Coffee Cup nominees and winners. To do the valuable work of the Coffee Party, volunteer. Not only will Coffee Party USA thank you for it, so will the country!

Follow over the jump for the nominees in each category.